By Robert Nichols
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In a short statement on Middlesbrough's official website it was announced that Aitor Karanka's time at the club has come to an end.
The statement reads as follows:
Middlesbrough Football Club can today confirm the departure of Head Coach Aitor Karanka. Following discussions, both parties have agreed that it is in the best interests of the club to make this change.
The club would like to thank Aitor for all his hard work over the past three-and-a-half years and for the success we've had during that time. We wish him all the best for the future.
Aitor Karanka said: "I'd like to thank Middlesbrough for a wonderful opportunity and the players, staff and all the people at the club who I have worked with. I'd also like to thank the fans for their support. This club will always hold a special place for me and I wish everyone connected with Middlesbrough Football Club the very best for the future."
Steve Agnew will step up from his role as assistant Head Coach to take control of first team affairs with immediate effect.
I think this will come as a relief to most parties involved. There has been a real meltdown since the turn of the year. We entered 2017 in a strong if not yet secure position in the League. We had a run of fixtures in January that should have given us a comfortable buffer zone with the bottom clubs. Instead we seemed to attempt to draw our way to safety. A policy that back fired when Crystal Palace and Leicester and even Hull started to pick up. Our defeat at Palace was a 6 pointer that we appeared to meekly surrender.
The transfer window seemed particularly damaging and damning for Aitor and Boro. Why did we sell players like Nsue and even Nugent and especially Rhodes (loan) and weaken the squad without replacing with the same quality. Aitor's outbursts about this at the end of the month appeared bizarre and must have knocked the stuffing out of new signings Gestede and Bamford who he had publicly courted only to now equally publicly reject as second rate.
Indeed it is man management issues that have seemed a real blight on the Karanka reign. Jordan Rhodes left the club with a quiet dignity in total contrast to the way he was treated. And surely what folly to sign his former strike partner and release a proven goal scorer at a time we can't buy a goal.
Indeed the public announcements of Karanka have been appalling this calendar year. Attacking the fans, the board and the players. I defended him at first but in the end it was just plain wrong.
But we must always be grateful to Aitor for the incredible highs. Wembley. The Brighton game. Promotion. Cup win at Man City etc etc. We will always remember how he put us back on the map and filled the stadium and gave us some of the very best of times.
Sad that it had to end this way but after seven years of trying and usually failing we cannot afford to let the Premier League ebb away. We must try for one last chance to survive.